Gardening columnist Carol Link discusses hostas

Hostas are a plant that we have included in our planting beds since we started developing the landscape.

Before retiring, I tried a few plants in a planter between the walkway that leads to our back porch and the brick foundation of our house. The first plants, which were small shrubs, grew out of the room fairly quickly, so the following summer we removed them and moved them to a different area of ​​the landscape.

Next, I planted brightly colored, sun-loving perennials there, but the plants struggled because they didn’t get enough sun to thrive.

Right from the start we built up the soil there with compost and manure. In the morning the planting bed is in full shade. In the afternoon the bed gets some sun, but the house and a few trees protect the bed from direct sunlight for most of the day.

Another bed against the back porch foundation contains three native nandinas and several hostas that serve as secondary occupation plants. This bed gets more sun than the one on the sidewalk, but the nandinas in this bed offer the hostas some protection from the full sun. The hostas planted in both beds can survive with some direct sunlight.

The hostas in the planting bed, positioned around the foundation of the porch, have longer and narrower variegated leaves than those that are planted along the sidewalk.  The native Nandina shrubs grow slowly and remain small when ripe.  They are attractive in shape with vivid multi-colored foliage, and I've never pruned them.

When we had all of the hostas planted, we dug a hole about 30 cm deep and about 2 feet wide. We mixed a few inches of compost and manure under the soil that was dug out of the hole. Next we shoveled a hole in the well-mixed soil and took the hosta out of its container, untangled the roots and set up the plant so that the top of the root ball was level with the surface of the earth. Both types of hostas that we planted grow in large clumps. So we placed the hostas about 3 feet apart. This distance worked perfectly for us because we never had to thin them out because they were planted too close together.

This bed contains a few canna lilies that grow under our office window. This end of the sidewalk gets more sun than the rest of the bed, and apparently the cannas get the right amount of sun to thrive. At the moment they are showing pretty orange-yellow flowers. Sitting at the computer, which is right in front of the office window, we can often watch pretty little hummingbirds feast on the beautiful flower nectar.

In late winter or early spring, before the soil warms up, we cut and remove all of the old canna foliage and any remnants of hosta foliage left over from last year’s growth. That is roughly all of the maintenance required in these beds, with the exception of adding some new mulch each year. Occasionally I find a few weeds to eradicate. The two beds at the back of the house are very easy to care for.

Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County gardener and veteran gardening writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others with their gardening work. Send questions or comments to [email protected]

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